Fridays at Ofelia’s | Death Gods, Hunters, and Soul Gardens

Guest-Post

Hello everyone, this is Jackie Keswick waving from England. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on the blog today.

For those of you who don’t know me, I write across genres from romantic suspense to fantasy and sci-fi. And while I like to set many of my stories in England, which I love to bits, I also allow myself to make up my very own worlds when I’m writing fantasy and sci-fi.

I’ve made 2021 the year of trying new things. I’m shifting the focus of my business to make more time for writing. I’m trying my hand at writing a paranormal romance, which is a first for me. And I’ve decided to write that paranormal romance as a newsletter serial, which is a scary prospect for a pantser who can’t write in a straight line.

My new paranormal romance, Caught, is the story of Tenzen, a death god who’s as old as the worlds and spends his years alone, caring for souls, and Yamakage Rakurai, a Yuvine Hunter, who makes himself a target by sticking to the rules and believing in doing the right thing.

Tenzen and Rakurai don’t just live in different worlds, they’re very different men with different values. Tenzen is an introverted loner. He cares for the souls in his garden, kills when he must, keeps to himself and has convinced himself he isn’t lonely. He’s never needed anyone, until he meets Rakurai and finds that he’s not against raising hell to keep the Hunter safe.

Rakurai, on the other hand, is used to standing up for what he thinks is right. When he finds Tenzen in trouble, he steps up to help without a second thought. He offers his life to save Tenzen’s, fights with his own clan elders when he believes they’re wrong and accepts that his choices have consequences. None of that stops him from feeling that he could do better, though. Or from feeling guilty that he hasn’t done so.

Together, those two very different men will save two worlds.

Or that’s the plan.

So far, I’m having a lot of fun with Tenzen and Rakurai, and especially with building the world they inhabit, which combines bits of Japan, Italy, Latvia, and England.

Lindisfarne walled garden

My favourite location is the garden where death god Tenzen watches over his souls. It’s based on the walled garden at Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, and I love it because the garden next to impossible to spot from the ground. Huddled in the rolling dunes, you come up upon it suddenly, and the dry, swaying grasses turn into a riot of flowers as soon as you pass through the wall.

When I started Caught, I knew without really thinking about it that I wanted my death god to have a garden like this. And I made myself wait to write the garden scene until I’d written all the chapters that came before it.

Caught sub form header

Have a sneak. I hope it tells you as much about Tenzen and Rakurai as it told me.

Summer-warm air brushed Rakurai’s face as he set foot into Tenzen’s garden. The sky stretched deep blue overhead, and a soft breeze blew a myriad of scents towards him. After the red and gold autumn hues around the Rafeet’s manor, his eyes struggled to adapt to the mass of colour in this cheerful jungle, where trees, shrubs, and flowers grew as they pleased. And where butterflies tumbled from flower to flower without a care. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, in colours and sizes Rakurai had never seen before.

Enchanted by the spectacle, Rakurai hadn’t noticed Tenzen leaving his side. Not until the Shinigami returned, an indulgent smile on his face. “It’s a joy to see them like this after all this time.”

These are the souls you’ve guarded?”

Yes. Plus the ones who were already in my care.” He laced his fingers with Rakurai’s and tugged him along a narrow path. “Let them recover and find their way around the garden.”

Tenzen moved deftly between bushes and giant ferns, not minding that fronds and branches tugged on his clothes and hair. Between the wonders of the garden and the enchanting view of a quietly relaxed Tenzen, Rakurai didn’t know where to look first. He pulled Tenzen to a stop as the path opened into a small meadow.

Who looks after all this when you’re not here?”

Soul gardens look after themselves. They adapt to the needs of the souls residing here. It’s… difficult to explain. The garden doesn’t exist in either of the worlds. It’s remade whenever a soul needs shelter.”

If there were no souls here, there would be no garden?”

Correct. Though it’s not a fate I’d like to think about. That’d be…”

The end of the world?”

Yes. It will come to pass, I know that. But I’ve tended my garden since the beginning of time. And I’d like to think that the end is a long time away.”

They stood in silence while Rakurai digested that. His own lifespan measured ten times that of a human, and he knew—intellectually—that the Shinigami were immortal. But he’d never tried to imagine all the years Tenzen had existed. What he’d seen. The people he’d met.

The kiss they’d shared seemed insignificant by comparison.

Is it always summer in your garden?” he asked to distract himself.

No. I told you the garden adapts to the souls sheltering here. What kind of garden it becomes is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.”

You don’t know what garden it will be?”

No. Walk with me, and you’ll see. It could be a zen garden, austere and serene with its shapes representing other concepts. It could be a forest covered in snow. Or it could be a riot of colour as it is now.” He smiled a little. “It was a pure rose garden, once. I spent days in it, just to enjoy the fragrance.”

Rakurai followed Tenzen across the meadow. He trailed the fingers of his free hand through the tops of the tall grass and breathed the scents of wildflowers until the meadow became an orchard and they stopped again to gaze. “This isn’t the garden I would build, but I’m enjoying this.”

The fact that you would build a garden tells me a lot about you.” Tenzen slipped his arms around Rakurai’s middle and pulled them flush together, leaving Rakurai with no doubt of his interest. “I’m thinking austere and serene would describe it well, no?”

If you’d like to find out more about Tenzen and Rakurai, then why not join me on my newsletter serial writing adventure? I send out new chapters every Friday morning, and the completed story will be published in the autumn.

We’re currently eight chapters in, and you can catch up on my website.

Sign up to my newsletter here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/b4v8p2

And if you’d like to keep in touch and find out what else I’m writing, then why not look me up:

caught blurb

Wrap-Up Wednesday | April

The ‘Write a Wrap-Up Wednesday post’ came up on my To-Do, and I thought to myself that I haven’t read much this month, but checking my notes, I realised I’ve read a few stories.

Day Job

Day Job by Domashita Romero – Louis is seeing things, has always been seeing things, so when the new guy – Gabriel – starts at his work, he knows he’s a demon. Or he thinks…no he knows. It’s right there in the strange eyes and the tailed shadow.

He tries to expose him, but it’s not going very well, and then one day at a super boring meeting, Gabriel sneezes on Louis – so pre-covid LOL – and things get complicated.

This have no cover and no blurb, but you can read it for free here.

Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil by RoughDraftHero – Sedated alien in a glass box (made me want to write an alien Snow White story LOL) and Milton’s job is to watch him and give him a dose of sedatives at midnight every night. When he notices the alien reacts to sounds, he starts playing music and reads out loud, but that only gets him transferred to another department. The last night he’s working, he ‘forgets’ to give the alien his dose of sedatives…

18374021Milton is a low-level employee for the government. All night, he watches over the most prized-possession of the secret laboratory he works in, hoping one day he would be able to see its eyes. However, he finds out something shocking about the subject he’s been monitoring, and starts to feel a small flicker of guilt.

That was probably his first mistake.

books2read.com/Sympathy-for-the-Devil

Hot Coffee & Terrible First Dates 

Hot Coffee & Terrible First Dates by K.P. Maxwell – Cute short story about a dog shifter and an owl shifter going on a blind date. Charlie knocks over his cup of coffee and it all falls in Derrick’s lap. It’s adorable and funny. Epithets, though…

56487174._sy475_First date. Hot coffee. What could possibly go wrong?

Derrick’s not really into dating, so when his coworker sets him up on a new app that promises to match him with another shifter, he’s ready to delete the profile and be done with it. He didn’t expect to get matched with the adorable, nerdy guy on the other side of the screen. When curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to meet the man at Café Seuil in Southeast Portland, will hot coffee and the cold, snowy weather make him give up on dating altogether? Or could this be the start of something wonderful?

Hot Coffee & Terrible First Dates is a short and sweet 5,500 word M/M paranormal story set in the same world as KP Maxwell’s Men of Café Seuil novels.

Download for free: books2read.com/HorCoffeeAndTerribleFirstDates

 

The Frog in the Room

The Frog in the Room by Jade Buchanan – Eh… Picked it up because the blurb said frog shifter, and I thought I could do with some therapy. It’s very short and there isn’t much plot, if any, to speak of. Tom works in a toy store and takes a toy frog with him in his car on his way home. He has an accident and ends up in an alternate world with a horny frog shifter.

27844386._sx318_Thomas Adler is a stickler for neatness. When his ordered life goes completely to the frogs, what’s a man to do? Grab hold of the closest frog shifter and hang on for dear life, of course!

books2read.com/TheFrogintheRoom

Beneath the Neon Moon

Beneath the Neon Moon by Theda Black – Two men chained up in a basement. One had one too many to drink the night before the other was attacked by a huge dog…or was it a wolf? I enjoyed this! Dark and evil. My only wish is that I would’ve wanted a confrontation at the end, but after some snooping around on the author’s website, I realised this is a series, so maybe that will come in the next book.

Beneath the neon moonZach and Mal have never met, but one summer night finds them in desperate trouble together, kidnapped and trapped in darkness. The moon’s rising high and full in the sky when Zach notices something’s changing in Mal, growing volatile and wild. And no matter how quickly the bond between them grows, Zach’s afraid he won’t survive the night.

Download for free: books2read.com/BeneaththeNeonMoon

Growl4Me

Growl4Me by Haylee Wolf – A dating app for shifters! It was the title, I admit. I don’t know when I picked it up, but I remember seeing the title and thinking it sounded fun. I do like me a shifter story or five, and this was all right, but it could’ve done with some editing. I’m terrible when it comes to spotting typos, but here were so many even I couldn’t miss them. Still, a cute alpha omega story.

Growl4MeWarren Kelly’s dream is simple. He wants to find a mate who’ll accept him for who he is. But it’s not that easy. Warren isn’t like most Omegas. His ordinary looks and quirks put off most dominant wolves. Signing up on the social network app Growl4Me will change his life…except Warren attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Inked, scarred and huge—Noble is a lone Alpha who has no trouble getting whatever and whoever he wants. But something’s missing in Noble’s life and that’s a mate. Warren claims they’re too different, that they’ll never work out. But Noble craves no one but his sexy pie baking and cat owning shy Omega. Noble doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and he’ll do everything to make Warren understand who he rightfully belongs to.

books2read.com/Growl4Me

Chapter Five and the Axe-Wielding Maniac

Chapter Five and the Axe-Wielding Maniac by Marie Sexton – It was the title that made me read it! It’s a short, cute, quick read about an author in a slump who one morning comes eye to eye with an axe-wielding maniac. The maniac wants to break his living room floor open. It’s cute!

Chapter five and the axe-wielding maniacAuthor Joshua Franklin Hill has a bad case of writer’s block. When an axe-wielding maniac knocks on his front door and asks to dig up his living room floor, he figures his Monday from hell is complete.

But an axe-wielding maniac may be just what Josh needs.

Download for free: books2read.com/ChapterFive

 

Too Stupid to Live

Too Stupid to Live (Romancelandia 1) by Anne Tenino – I was writing a blog post about funny books, and ended up re-reading this. Sam makes me laugh. He’s obsessed with romance books, and he wants himself a highlander, and he finds him! A football to the head, and when Sam comes too, there he is. The highlander turns him down, though…at first, at least LOL

Too Stupid to LiveIt isn’t true love until someone gets hurt.

Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.

Until he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now—possibly—ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.

Until he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong . . . can they?

books2read.com/TooStupidToLive

Touch Me Not

Touch Me Not by Genna Donaghy – This is also a re-read. It’s an alternative universe where everyone is either dominant or submissive, and you have true mates. Jake is a sub, but he doesn’t want a dominant in his life. All he wants is to run his farm as he sees fit. But… there’s a strange man in town, and he touches Jake.

Touch Me NotIn an alternate universe, where gender is less important than how dominant a person is, Jake Alric is the odd man out. While other subs spend their days trying to find their one true mate, Jake goes out of his way to avoid dominants. He’s seen the dark side of soul bonds, and all he wants is to be left alone to tend his small Montana cattle ranch in peace.

When an oil company starts buying up land all around town, Jake comes under increasing pressure to sell. A chance encounter brings him into contact with one of his potential mates, Henry Waterstone, son of the man trying to buy Jake’s ranch and a handsome dominant who pushes buttons Jake didn’t know he had. For the first time Jake is tempted by the true pleasure of being a submissive. But as Jake and Henry grow closer, a new player in the oil company rises up and threatens to sever their fragile connection. Suddenly the person Jake was most afraid to find becomes the one he’s most terrified to lose.

books2read.com/TouchMeNot

Cover Reveal | Aiden and Tristan

Cover-Reveal

Are you ready to see another cover? There will be a few in the near future…more than a few. We have some intense publishing ahead LOL

Since I’ve decided to turn my old Nortown into Up North stories, I wanted them all to be able to be read as stand-alones. From the beginning that’s been my goal with the Up North books, so we’ve lumped all Aiden and Tristan stories together into one.

Aiden and Tristan includes:

Once in a Snowstorm
The Empty Egg
Happy Endings
Just Words

All in all, we end up with about 46k of Aiden and Tristan shenanigans. I always meant to write one more shorty where Tristan proposed to Aiden, but I’m not good at wedding stuff and now it’s gone so long since I wrote them, so I’m no longer in their heads if that makes sense.

Aiden and Tristan are more cliché than the other couples in the Up North stories. It’s babbly city guy vs grumpy lumberjack. There is size difference, age difference, sensible clothing vs designer clothes, and I included lines like ‘Oh, so responsive’ and other fine sentences you only find in a certain kind of stories LOL

I had so much fun writing these stories, and I know it sometimes sounds as if I’m putting them down, but Aiden and Tristan are characters who are very dear to me.

Are you ready to see the cover?!?

aidenandtristan

Blurb:

Daring a snowstorm might not be the smartest thing Aiden Evans has ever done, but he can’t stand being in his flat a moment longer. With only three days to Christmas, he doesn’t want to be alone. He wants a place to belong, wants people around him who won’t look down on him. He might not find that at his mother’s place, but it’s better than being alone in the city. If he can make it there, that is. 

Tristan Gardner is looking forward to a quiet night in front of the TV, but instead, he has to save an idiot in designer clothes from freezing to death in his forest. Tristan tries not to notice the man’s good looks, just like he has tried not to notice any man’s good looks for the last seven years. He knows where relationships go and is far better off living alone, with his dog, in his cabin. 

Aiden is driving Tristan mad with his bratty comments and irresponsible ways, and Aiden is going crazy from Tristan’s judgmental attitude. Luckily, in a few days, the weather will clear up, and the two men won’t have to be together any longer. But will a few steamy nights with the grumpy lumberjack change Aiden’s mind about wanting to leave? And will Tristan still want to go back to his peaceful, predictable life without fear of getting his heart broken? 

Note: This book contains Once in a Snowstorm, The Empty Egg, Happy Endings, and Just Words 

Release day: May 22